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the katz trophy is becoming painfully clear. it's been nearly 24 hours since a powerful earthquake touched off a huge tsunami that swept across japan's east coast. the quake, a magnitude 8.89, was the fifth-largest in modern history. centered off japan's northeast coast, it was felt for 1,300 miles. very early reports say more than 400 people are dead. japan's kyoto news agency says the final number is expected to top one thousand. most of the victims drowned. nearly one thousand are reported injured, more than 500 are missing. and four million homes and businesses lost power. the first estimate of the damage: $10 billion. that damage includes a nuclear reactor in northeastern japan. radiation levels are soaring and the area is being evacuated. most flights between the u.s. and japan have been canceled, and there were fear it is tsunami would pound the u.s., but by the time the waves reached hawaii and the west
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coast this morning, they had lost most of their punch. president obama said he's heartbroken by the disaster. u.s. assistance is already on the way to japan. lucy craft is there. >> reporter: the monster quake, thought to be the largest in japan's history triggered a ferocious series of tsunamis. a 23-foot wall of water poured over the northern japanese coastline with little warning. only minutes after the quick hit sweeping away everything and everyone in its path. cars were tossed like toys. boats were battered by the tides. this tanker was swept up on to the shore.
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another ship fought to escape a massive whirlpool. and the state of the boat and its crew is unknown. >> a tsunami obviously coming in several sweeps. >> reporter: minutes later a a second deadly wave. surging water overtook coastal city streets, ripping fishing boats from their moorings and swamping buildings. the tide forced its way up to three miles inland. the city of sendai's local airport was submerged, the muddy walter rolled over the tarmac, sending horrified travelers to the roof tops in search of high ground. sendai, home to a million people saw the worst of the disaster. police say up to 300 bodies have already been found. street after street was reduced to rubble. >> all we see is a pile of debris and we've been looking
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for people but we see nobody. >> reporter: more than 90 aftershocks, some registering a magnitude 6 or higher were felt along a 1,300 mile stretch of japan's coastline. nearly a dozen nuclear power plants were shut down, including one 170 miles northeast of tokyo. the cooling system failed when the electricity went out, raising pressure in the nuclear core and forcing authorities to announce they would vent radioactive vapor. while they say the gas is not a health or environmental threat, thousands of people within a six-mile radius of the plant were evacuated. throughout the country, people were stunned by the violence of the quake. "it's really frightening" this woman said in the town of yokohama, where people were literally dodging falling debris. >> ( translated ): i've never experienced such shaking before. i could not keep standing and i've never experienced such an
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earthquake before. >> reporter: skyscrapers swayed in tokyo 240 miles southwest of the quake's epicenter, sending people running out of office buildings and into the streets. shaken commuters were stranded as train and subway service usually moving ten million people per day came to a grinding halt. and streets were jammed with cars going nowhere. by nightfall, fires were widespread throughout the quake zone. a fire at this large oil refinery in the city of ichihara was out of control. its flames hundreds of feet high were visible for miles. authorities are urging citizens to stay in their evacuation centers, not to try and go look at their homes because of the continuing threat of aftershocks and tsunami. katie? >> couric: but, lucy, it is daylight now in japan. what with we learning? >> reporter: we're seeing on t.v. just scenes of utter tragedy. houses with their roofs ripped
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off, whole villages destroyed, at least two villages destroyed. a forest thrown like a pile of chopsticks on to a bunch of houses. it's just heart breaking to see. >> couric: the actual quake, i know, occurred several hours north of tokyo by car. how difficult has it been to make contact with anyone living close to the epicenter? >> very difficult. land lines, cell phones, doesn't matter, it's been almost impossible to get through to people in sendai. i know this myself because i have a son there who goes to school, katie, and we haven't been able to reach him since before the earthquake started. this part of japan is normally very accessible. there's a high-speed bullet train that can get you there in just a couple of hours. bullet trains have been halted and the highways, also, are accessible only to emergency vehicles right now. >> couric: well, lucy craft in tokyo, lucy, thank you so much and i certainly hope you'll be able to reach your son very, very soon. thank you so much.
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after the tsunami devastated japan, the fear was other countries across the pacific would be hit next. tsunami warnings went up in 53 countries, including the united states where there were some very anxious moments on the west coast. john blackstone is there. >> reporter: the images from japan show the terrifying destructive power of waves up to 30 feet high. devastation as far as the eye could see as a tsunami rolled across the pacific, surging all the way to coastal california where boats were ripped from their moorings. >> so what enough the case of japan is the old pacific ocean sea floor actually plunging underneath the island of japan. >> reporter: it began deep below the ocean, 80 miles off the japanese coast. the pacific plates slip violently, rupturing a section of the sea floor nearly 200 miles long and a hundred miles wide. the explosion of energy created
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powerful waves radiating across the ocean, moving as fast as 600 miles an hour. in the deep ocean, the waves are not high, but when they hit shallow water near shore the crests can be dramatic and deadly. just how deadly became clear in the indonesian tsunami of 2004 that killed 230,000 people. the death toll for this tsunami is still not known, partly because its impact spreads so far. where it started in japan waves were so high the gauges to measure them were broken. the crest hit 24 feet. over the next hours the tsunami spread across the pacific. at 8:27 eastern time, waves of nearly six feet washed on to the beaches of maui. two hours later the tsunami began hitting the california coast. there waves reached nearly eight feet high in crescent city, destroying the harbor and wrecking boats. >> it looks like a tornado hit
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it like you see in the midwest. >> reporter: in santa cruz south of san francisco surge after surge swept into the harbor washing boats back and forth as owners looked on helplessly. >> it's just really scary. i'm kind of emotional. i've got to go. >> reporter: south of los angeles in orange county a helicopter pilot watched as the tsunami surge made a canal flow backwards. >> that's dramatic video there, buddy. >> reporter: despite warnings to stay away, five people were swept out to sea, four in oregon were rescued but one man in northern california is still missing. katie? >> couric: john blackstone in san francisco tonight, john, thank you. japanese authorities declared a state of emergency at that nuclear plant damaged by the quake as radiation levels spiked. more on that from nancy cordes. >> reporter: the fukushima nuclear plant was designed to withstand the fiercest of earthquakes, as soon as the plant lost power, diesel generators kicked in even as workers like this man were
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dodging the crashing debris trying to get out. >> he said it was floating down and he said that was worst. >> reporter: but then at least one of the generators failed, crippling the cooling system that pumps thousands of gallons of water through one of the plants six reactors. heat began to build and so did pressure in the form of steam. plant managers began considering releasing some steam into the reactor's containment units or even into the air to prevent an uncontrolled leak like that one at pennsylvania's three mile island in 1979. so humans can withstand a certain amount of radioactive vapor with no problem? >> right. because what you do is when that you have vapor released from the site, it automatically goes into the atmosphere and spreads out, so it's not a significant amount and it's not a concentrated
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amount. >> reporter: still, when radiation levels inside the plant climbed to one thousand times the normal level, the evacuation area was expanded from a two-mile radius to a six-mile radius. japan's 55 nuclear reactors provide about a third of the nation's power. 11 of them were in the earthquake zone. >> the fact is that a dozen of these reactors have shut down and have done what they were designed to do. >> reporter: but now comes word that the cooling system has failed at a second nuclear plant. extra generators are being trucked in because getting a consistent source of power to the systems at both plants is going to be the key to averting a meltdown, katie. >> couric: nancy cordes, nancy, thank you. the pictures alone give you an idea of the here is force of this earthquake. now consider this: at a magnitude of 8.9, it was more than 700 times stronger than last year's devastating quake in haiti and about 2,000 times stronger than the 1994
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northridge earthquake in california. dr. lucy jones is a seismologist with the u.s. geological survey. dr. jones, how surprised were scientists by the magnitude of this quake? >> well, a mixed bag. it is a plate boundary, we know these things happen, but this is the largest earthquake in the last 140 years japan and some of the maps have said they thought that northern part would never have such a large earthquake. obviously that's not the case. >> couric: how does this tsunami compare to the one that struck thailand and indonesia back in 2004? >> this tsunami is a bit smaller than the indian ocean tsunami because the earthquake is a bit smaller. i mean, a tsunami happens because you have a massive earthquake on a huge fault that moves a large part of the sea floor up and the water that used to be there has to go somewhere else. >> couric: could this type of undersea earthquake happen along the united states coastline?
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>> there are two places in the united states where we have a similar type of fault that will also produce a big earthquake and a big tsunami. one is the ay electrocution arc around alaska and the other much more dangerously is the pacific northwest. there's one of these types of faults running all the way from the south to the island of victoria in british qlaupl in the north. >> what can scientists in your view hope to learn from this event? >> this is going to be the best recorded earthquake ever. the japanese have spectacular instrumentation and i think we're going to learn a lot more about the fundamental nature of earthquakes. we're also going to be learning a lot about how buildings behave in these very largest events and especially cities of seattle and portland. i hope we're looking very, very carefully at how the japanese buildings behaved. >> couric: dr. lucy jones of the u.s. geological survey, dr. jones, thanks so much. those areas that dr. jones mentioned are all in the
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so-called ring of fire. coming up next, why it's the source of the world's deadliest disasters. and later another dark day in history. >> shots fired, shots fired. >> reporter: newly released tapes from the day president reagan was shot. copd makes it hard to breathe so i wasn't playing much of a role in my own life. but with advair, i'm breathing better. so now, i've got the leading part. advair is clinically proven to help significantly improve lung function. unlike most copd medications, advair contains both an anti-inflammatory and a long-acting bronchodilator, working together to help improve your lung function all day. advair won't replace fast-acting inhalers for sudden symptoms and should not be used more than twice a day. people with copd taking advair
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>> couric: japan is no stranger to deadly earthquakes. the one that hit kobe in 1995 killed more than 6,000 people and in 1923, a quake started fires that destroyed much of tokyo, leaving 140,000 dead. but today's earthquake was far stronger, one of the five most powerful in the last 100 years. the great chilean quake of 1960 tops that list, a magnitude 9.5. all those disasters struck in what's known as the ring of fire, a horseshoe shaped series of underwater fault lines. harry smith explains why the ring of fire is one of the most dangerous places in the world. >> reporter: just last month, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake destroyed sections of christchurch, new zealand. more than a hundred people died. one year before that, an 8.8 temblor struck chile. more than 500 died. today's massive earthquake off the coast of japan registered a
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massive 8.9. though separated by thousands of miles, each of these quakes occurred on the ring of fire, a 25,000 mile line along the pacific rim that is the most geologically active place on the planet with more than 450 volcanos. most of the world's earthquakes occur along this line. the culprit? the pacific plate, the floor beneath the ocean is constantly shifting. >> it's moving pretty fast. the pacific plate is moving under japan at about ten centimeters a year. which is is a pretty high right. >> reporter: trillions of tons of earth moving four inches a year is a lot, an irresistible force meeting an unmovable object. >> and you do that for a hundred years, you're talking about a big amount that you've got to... >> reporter: company it is for. >> and when it pops back it produces the earthquake and the tsunami because it's doing it
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under the ocean. >> reporter: japan's level of seismic activity is about ten times that of california. the country has spent billions trying to make itself earthquake-proof. today's video showed buildings swaying but not collapsing. the u.s. has started to install shock absorbers under buildings as well, but has some catching up to do. >> nobody's ever prepared for this kind of earthquake, but compared to japan, probably we're not nearly as prepared as japan. >> reporter: scientists say alaska and the pacific northwest are the most vulnerable to an earthquake comparable to the one that struck japan today. along the ring of fire, it's only a matter of time. harry smith, cbs news, new york. >> couric: the pentagon is sending at least eight navy ships to provide aid to japan. if you'd like to help the victims, you can go to we have links to organizations involved in the relief effort. and when we come back, a
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it's the easy way to get more fiber everyday. >> couric: the qaddafi regime that has momentum now in the battle for libya. after forcing the opposition to retreat froms are a la nuf yesterday, qaddafi's air force today pounded rebels holed up at the refinery outside town. and in the west, loyalists retook zawiyah after battling rebels for weeks. at the white house today, president obama said the u.s.
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and nato are still considering military action against qaddafi. in other news, it was 30 years ago this month that, are, just 70 days into his presidency, was shot by john hinckley, jr., reagan was gravely wounded but he would survive. today the secret service released ten minutes of dramatic audiotape from that day. bill plante, who covered the reagan white house, has the sound and the story. >> reporter: seconds after president reagan exit it is washington hilton comes the radio call the secret service dread. >> reporter: agent jerry para, head of the presidential detail shoves ronald reagan into his armored limo. as it speeds off, paraat first reports that the president-- code named raw hide-- was not hit. then, a telltale bloody foam on
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the president's lips. agent parr knows that means a punctured lung. >> reporter: as the limo with no police escort rushes to george washington university hospital, the president's condition appears to deteriorate. agent parr remains dead calm. >> reporter: three and a half minutes after he was shot here, president reagan walked into the hospital. the president collapsed in the emergency room far more seriously wounded than we knew then. bill plante, cbs news, washington. >> couric: arizona congresswoman gabrielle giffords also survived an assassination attempt. today her doctors said she's recovering "by leaps and bounds." her breathing tube is out, she's walking and speaking better. she has been told she was shot but she has no memory of it. a gunman killed six people in that january attack.
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>> couric: an update now on our top story. it is saturday morning in japan and the search continues for victims of the earthquake and tsunami. first reports say at least 400 people are dead. the number expected to go much higher. the earthquake damaged a japanese nuclear reactor. officials declared a state of emergency and ordered an evacuation as radiation levels spiked. president obama has pledged to help with the relief effort. he's sending at least eight u.s. navy ships to japan. and that is the "cbs evening news" for tonight, i'm katie couric. don't forget to set your clocks ahead one hour this weekend for daylight saving time. i'll see you monday at the usual time. good night. captioning sponsored by cbs captioned by media access group at wgbh
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CBS Evening News With Katie Couric
CBS March 11, 2011 7:00pm-7:30pm EST

News/Business. Katie Couric. The latest world and national news. New. (CC) (Stereo)

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